Washington (CNN)The former director of the CIA suggested Wednesday that President Donald Trump is withholding criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin because the Russians might have compromising personal information on Trump.
"I think he is afraid of the President of Russia," John Brennan said of Trump in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Asked why, Brennan said, "The Russians could have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult."
The former intelligence chief said the Russians "have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things that they could expose and reveal," adding that "perhaps" Moscow has personal information on Trump.
"But the fact that (Trump) has had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear," argued Brennan, who was CIA director under President Barack Obama but served in the agency for decades.
Brennan criticized Trump's phone call with Putin Tuesday in which he congratulated Putin on his re-election but did not raise Russian meddling in the 2016 election or Russia's alleged role in a nerve agent attack against a former spy in the United Kingdom.
"To congratulate (Putin) and treat (Putin) so nicely while he treats Americans with such disdain, I think it just demonstrates he looks at the world through a prism of what is going to help and protect Donald Trump," Brennan said of the President.
There's no publicly known evidence to support Brennan's speculation that Russia has compromising information on Trump. Classified documents presented to Obama and Trump last year included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial dirt about Trump, but the intelligence community has not verified all of the allegations. Trump has called the dossier "phony stuff."
The White House also has maintained that Trump has been tough on Russia throughout his administration.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the focus of the Trump-Putin call Tuesday was to "talk about areas of shared interest" and "continue a dialogue."
"We're going to continue to maintain the position that we've had and be tough when necessary," Sanders told reporters Tuesday.
Brennan has been increasingly outspoken against Trump on Twitter for attacking former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.